One of the items confronting the Christian Reformed Synod which (at this writing) is about to convene is an overture from Dr. Harry Boer for a new Form of Subscription. In Calvinist Contact, June 4, 1973, there appears an article on this subject from the pen of the Rev. John Vriend—an article taken over from another paper, The Bridge.
In this article, Vriend writes, in part, as follows:
It’s Dr. Boer’s contention—and I agree with it—that no office bearer in the Christian Reformed Church can sign the document without mental reservations. Or if he can, he is so obviously unintelligent as to be unfit to serve in a capacity of leadership and trust in the church. So—you ask—one is either a rascal or a fool if he signs the form? That would depend, it seems to me, on the nature of your reservations.
Let no one panic if I list some of the areas in which today hundreds if not thousands of our office-bearers are bound to be in non-agreement with our confessional standards . . .
Mr. Vriend then goes on to list some of these areas, among them being the doctrine of reprobation in Canons I, 6 and 15, the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper in Article 35 of the Confession, and the Catechism’s statement concerning the mass in Question and Answer 80. And then he continues:
By this time you may begin to wonder how I can go to Synod next week and, upon hearing the form of subscription recited, respond with a clear spoken “Amen.” Actually, this question may be addressed to every minister and elder who stands up for this solemn act of assent. Every office-bearer, no matter how faithful and honest, must have his private solution for this problem. Let me tell you mine.
I say “Amen” to the Creeds with a clear conscience because I am, heart and soul, committed to the evangelical content and intent of the Creeds. I sense a deep and dynamic unity of faith with the Reformed fathers who faced Roman Catholicism and Arminianism and found those systems wanting. I share their love for the Gospel of God’s sovereign grace in Christ and their loyalty to the Church as a non-sectarian body of believers. I see the Creeds as fallible historically-conditioned statements of faith serving to express that love and that loyalty. My act of signing them, my mental reservations with regard to certain formulations notwithstanding, is an act of faith which at the level of the heart is filled with joy and conviction.
There you have it!
Is it not strange that the pressure for a change in the Formula of Subscription never comes from those who are in agreement with the creeds? If it would, a church could face such overtures calmly and objectively, and could conceivably judge the request for change on its own merits. But no! Always the demand for change comes from those who at various points are in disagreement with the confessions. And it always comes not at the moment when they first discover their disagreement, but long afterwards!
It may seem to some that a man like Vriend is being very honest and frank when now he admits to having mental reservations when signing or assenting to the Form of Subscription. And some may be deceived by his attempted explanation.
But in plain language, Vriend admits to being a liar and to having been a liar every time he assented to the Form of Subscription over a period of years!
For this is the significance of the Jesuit ethics of “mental reservations.” Orally or by written assent, Vriend states publicly in subscribing to the Creeds that he agrees with “every article and point of doctrine.” But in his own soul—without stating these exceptions—he says every time he subscribes: “But I don’t agree with this. I take exception to that. I do not agree with that,” etc., etc.
What Vriend does in this article is admit that he has been doing this over the years. And he claims that “hundreds if not thousands” of Christian Reformed office-bearers do the same thing.
This is utterly dishonest!
It makes no difference that now Vriend bluntly states that all along he has had mental reservations. It makes no difference that he may plead that this is the only way in which he could subscribe to the creeds—let alone the fact, of course, that this is not true. It makes no difference that he and Boer may claim that if one can sign the Formula of Subscription without mental reservations, he is “so obviously unintelligent as to be unfit to serve in a capacity of leadership and trust in the church”—let alone that it is the height of cocksure conceit to make this claim. And it makes no difference that “hundreds if not thousands” have been doing the same thing: for a thousand wrongs do not make a right.
The simple fact is that Vriend admits to lying and having lied—and that, too, about the most sacred things and before the church, the body of Christ, and therefore to the Holy Spirit.
This is a dreadful thing! It is dishonest! It is hypocritical!
Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for this sin,Acts 5:1-10.
Moreover, according to the very provisions of the Formula of Subscription, the first order of business in this connection should not be the treatment of Harry Boer’s overture, but the declaration that Vriend and the “hundreds if not thousands” of others are de factosuspended from office.
To be sure, I am not so naive as to expect that anything like this will take place: the church is too far gone for that! This, however, does not change the fact that itshould take place. And do not forget: God is not mocked!
But let this be a lesson of warning to all concerning the necessity of honesty and of insisting upon the provisions of the Formula of Subscription.
Let no officebearer sign the Formula of Subscription unless he can do so in all honesty before God and His church. Better far it is that he should frankly refuse to do so than that he should do so dishonestly and with mental reservations.
And let no ecclesiastical assembly shrink from its duty of enforcing the provisions of the Formula of Subscription without reservation.
Failure to do so can only result in a situation in which the church is wide open for faithless officebearers, a situation in which these faithless and dishonest ones finally occupy a majority position, and a situation in which that majority will insist that their dishonest subscription be legitimized by changing the Formula itself.
And when this latter stage is reached, a church will begin to manifest the marks of the false church, using the power of discipline to persecute the faithful and to cast them out and to uphold heretics and those who depart from the way of truth.
This has happened in the Netherlands.
It is happening here today!